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06 October 2016, 11:22

Three steps to a truly compelling brand narrative

We marketers get very excited about the power of narratives and storytelling. And for good reason – done properly, a narrative can create significant competitive advantage and lasting customer engagement. But, as the (not so famous) saying goes, not all narratives are created equal.

‘We already have a narrative’
If you do have a brand story, chances are it focuses on the origins of the company, how it grew from a simple two-man band in a workshop (or similar) to the powerhouse it is today. But how do you translate this into your ongoing brand narrative? If your narrative is centred on your brand story, you may be missing a trick.

The best narratives focus not on the brand or products, but on the customer. To create a really compelling narrative, you should tell a story about the audience you’re aiming at. Of course, your brand has a role to play in helping the customer achieve what they want to, but that should be more implicit than explicit. This is a tricky thing to achieve, as marketers want to shout about their brands and products. But you’ll create a much more powerful narrative if you tell it from the audience’s perspective, rather than the company’s.

Take Apple’s famous ‘Think Different’ advertising campaign as an example. Apple has a great origin story that we’re all very familiar with, but the campaign wasn’t about that. It wasn’t about Apple at all. Instead, it told a story of individuality and creativity through the generations; it effectively said to the customer, ‘be the weird and wonderful individual that you are, think different’, with the implication that Apple’s innovative products could help them do that. Now that’s a powerful narrative! 

What makes a good narrative?
A compelling narrative can be broken down into three key steps:

1. Set the scene. 
Begin by setting the scene from the customer’s perspective. Where are they? How did they get here? Describe the relevant wider landscape that the customer finds themselves in, be it the work environment, societal changes, financial pressures, and so on. 

2. Describe the road ahead.
Outline how things are changing, how this might affect the customer, and whether any challenges may lie ahead.

3. Give a call to action. 
Finish by pulling the customer towards an opportunity or ongoing benefits. Inspire them to take action and achieve their goals (with the help of your brand or product).

Let’s look at a made-up example for a fitness tracker band aimed at novice runners. A typical brand narrative might go something like:

XYZbrand started small. Inspired to lead a healthier lifestyle, but uninspired by the fitness bands on the market, founder Steve Bloggs decided to create a product that fitted his lifestyle perfectly. What started as one man working at a kitchen table in a Brooklyn loft has grown into a global business with more than 20 million users. But we’re not done yet. We’re evolving all the time and constantly looking for new ways to disrupt the fitness world.

Now let’s try that again from the customer’s perspective: 

Life is busy. There never seems to be enough time to focus on fitness. Sure, we go for a bike ride when we can, and we try to take the stairs at work. But, too often, our own fitness, strength and wellbeing are afterthoughts to work, family and real life. But it doesn’t have to be that way. XYZbrand allows us to take charge of our fitness in new and exciting ways. By helping us make little improvements and monitor progress day by day, step by step, it offers huge benefits. It won’t always be easy, we may have to sweat, but with XYZbrand it’ll be worth it. All it takes is one small step towards a healthier future.

There’s no contest, is there? Whatever your business or brand, creating a customer-focused narrative that demonstrates the benefits of your brand is a brilliant way to differentiate yourself from your competitors, engage people with your brand, and strengthen customer relationships. At pslondon, we create compelling narratives that really speak to your customers. See how we’ve helped our clients expand their reach, and attract and retain customers in innovative ways.

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